Florida Manatees are fascinating wild residents often seen in Nature’s Place to Play. Look around from shore, kayak or boat to find them cruising along near the water’s surface, at home in both salt and fresh water environments.
Along Florida’s Adventure Coast, find them in coastal estuaries, rivers, creeks and springs. Wear polarized sunglasses to help spot these well-camouflaged, slow-movers. Large circles of water are known as manatee footprints, indicating their presence below.
When boating, carefully obey coastal Manatee Zones to avoid injuring them with propellers.
The gray, leathery skin of manatees somewhat resembles that of their distant relative, the elephant. Manatees often appear more of a brownish green though due to abundant algae growth, helping them to blend into the scenery even more.
All rounded edges, these oblong-shaped buoyant marine mammals have a flat, paddle-type tail with two forelimbs called flippers. Within the flippers are jointed, finger-like bones, allowing them flexibility and control to hold objects and bring food to their mouth.
Because their diet is exclusively plants, manatees have only molars for chewing. Called marching molars, throughout the manatee’s life, these teeth are continuously lost and replaced.
Their faces are distinguished by a wide, whiskered snout. Stiff hairs distributed throughout their bodies provide a sense of touch that helps them recognize their surroundings and water currents.
These gentle marine mammals known as “sea cows” spend up to eight hours per day grazing on seagrasses and other aquatic plants. Manatees rest a lot too, often lying still on the bottom or suspended at the water’s surface. Their average lifespan is about 40 years.
Manatees often swim alone, in pairs or as mother-calf duos. Because they are not territorial, when multiple manatees gather together informally it is usually to share warm water or a large food supply. Such groups are called herds or aggregations.
Weighing in at a shapely 1,000 to 1,500 pounds and about nine or ten feet long, these gentle giants are graceful underwater. According to ancient mythology, sea sirens, or mermaids, lured sailors to steer their ships into danger. After a long voyage, some sailors may have thought they were seeing mermaids when they were actually viewing manatees.
Learn more about Florida’s official marine mammal and how to protect and share the waterways with these gentle giants.
Florida Manatee Facts
Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission
You Can Help Protect Manatees
Florida's Adventure Coast Blog
How You Can Help Florida Manatees